Kamsky new U.S. Champion

| 0 | Chess Event Coverage
Playoff Kamsky & Shulman will decide U.S. Ch todayGata Kamsky won the U.S. Championship today in St Louis by beating Yury Shulman in a playoff (rapid) game. Sunday the two eliminated Alexander Onischuk and Hikaru Nakamura respectively, and yesterday they drew each other.

The 2010 U.S. Chess Championship takes place May 13-25 at the Chess Club and Scholastic Center of Saint Louis, Missouri. The event features a new format, which includes a 24-player, seven-round Swiss tournament followed by a four-player Championship final. In the event that there is no clear U.S. Champion after the quad finals, there will be a championship playoff. More info in our first report.

Quad finals: Saturday

As we reported earlier, Gata Kamsky, Alexander Onischuk, Hikaru Nakamura and Yury Shulman qualified for the quad finals. The four would play each other one more time, in games on Saturday, Sunday and if necessary Monday.

In the first round (or rather round 8), the top two seeds, Nakamura and Kamsky, met for the second time, though with colors reversed. Nakamura had a promising initiative, but then Kamsky turned the tables on the attacking player by offering several pawns to gather a piece storm near Nakamura’s king.

The first surprise from Kamsky came when he played 16…Bf8. “It’s a quad, everyone’s trying to win a game, and in that sense, Bf8 was a good try,” Nakamura said. “Bf8 makes a lot of sense,” Kamsky agreed. “I get my structure ruined but I didn’t see any way for White to exploit it.”

Later, Nakamura’s White queen went gallivanting in search of queenside pawns. Kamsky took the opportunity to amass all of his pieces menacingly near Nakamura’s castle king. As commentator GM Maurice Ashley has been fond of saying all tournament: “When one queen is away then the other one plays.”

“I think I just miscalculated the resulting variations,” Nakamura said. “I missed how strong the Re6, Rg6, Ng5 idea is.”


Onischuk and Shulman had played each other also on Thursday, and so they met for the second round in a row. Unlike round seven when both players were playing it safe to qualify for the quad, Onischuk had White and more of a reason to create complications. Still, after a benign opening, no initiative was created for either side. Shulman said he felt very little stress during the rematch. “I felt that Alex didn’t get what he wanted out of the opening,” Shulman said.

Quad finals: Sunday

In the most dramatic and meaningful round so far, GM Yury Shulman upset defending champion GM Hikaru Nakamura on board one. On board two, GM Gata Kamsky dug out of a hole, and after his draw offer was refused, he delivered GM Alex Onischuk his first loss in nearly five years of U.S. Championship appearances.

Nakamura played quickly in the opening and sacrificed a center pawn to gain pressure on the kingside. He won a few pawns and pinned all his hopes on advancing his passed h-pawn. But Shulman’s pieces arrived too quickly, and the pawn never seriously threatened Shulman’s position.

“The first mistake was the opening choice,” Nakamura said. “I wasn’t 100 percent prepared.”

“In the opening I had to recall,” Shulman said. “I was having a hard time. Once I played h6 I realized I was back in my preparation. [The move] h6 was quite a problem for Hikaru to solve.”


Alexander Onischuk refused a draw offer to pursue a slight advantage but was eventually overrun by a relentless Gata Kamsky.

In the post-mortem, the players agreed that after 20…Rc8 21. Qd3 Qh7 22. Qh6 was an improvement, when White has a better chance of holding the balance. “It’s probably just a draw,” Nakamura said. “That was the best I have.”

Instead, after the queens remained and Nakamura played 22. f4, his king was too open to last much longer. Shulman’s rook got to the second rank, his queen to the king’s diagonal, and his knight was poised to jump to f5 and g3. “I forgot about these stupid ideas,” Nakamura said.

Shulman said that after his rook got to c2, he found the idea of sacrificing Rxg5 and the only thing that remained was getting the move order right.

Nakamura-Shulman Nakamura-Shulman Here Shulman played the brilliant 24...Rxg5!! and after 25.Qxg5 Qd4+ 26.Kh1 Qe3 Nakamura resigned.

Below is a screenshot of the wonderful live show of this game, which can still be watched in the video player below. It's called "LIVE: Shulman Brilliancy" and is really recommended.


This game only lasted 26 moves and ended well before board two, meaning Kamsky and Onischuk knew the result while their game was still in progress. This may help explain why Onischuk turned down Kamsky’s draw offer after 41. Ne4, the first move after time control. If Onischuk had accepted, he would no longer control his own fate since he already played Shulman in the first game of the quad finals.

Kamsky claimed he was worse out of the opening but praised his defensive idea of Rd4 and f4. He said he still preferred Onischuk’s position after the offer was refused. But after the game became a rook-and-pawn endgame, Onischuk may have had better chances with 43…b4. He then ran low on time and slipped with 45…Kd5. “He played Kd5 really quickly, and I was really surprised,” Kamsky said.

Onischuk-Kamsky Onischuk-Kamsky Here Black played 45...Kd5?.

Quad finals: Monday

Kamsky and Shulman were expected to play safely, but in fact the game started as a very sharp Exchange Grünfeld. Last year the two had the same line on the board, and back then Kamsky opted for the safer 11...Ne5. About Kamsky, who this time grabbed the pawn with 11...Bxc3+, commentator Maurice Ashley said: "I think he really wants to win this game."

Shulman responded instantly with 13.h4, trying to attack the king that just lost its defender on g7. Kamsky played very quickly for many moves to come, making clear that he had analysed this variation deeply, perhaps already for his match against Topalov last year. When the queens were exchanged, thanks to the increment Kamsky had a minute more on his clock than when the game started.


The tactical phase of exchanges led to a dead drawn rook ending and so the players shook hands at move 30, knowing they would meet again the next day. Kamsky and Shulman played again in a rapid tiebreaker on Tuesday morning, at 10AM local time (17:00 CET).

Playoff on Tuesday

Last year the base time for the Armageddon game was 60 minutes+ 5 second increment. This time Kamsky got to bid, and he went for the following: play with Black and draw odds for the title with 25 minutes, versus 60 minutes for Shulman.

After the game Kamsky regretted his choice of the clock times, as he felt I didn't have enough time. His reason for going for the black pieces, he said, was "because I'm more solid with Black". And indeed he seemed to equalize comfortably in his favourite Slav/Slechter/Grünfeld hybrid, when the queens got exchanged.

Then Shulman found the very nice idea of 34.Rc5! ("yeah, I blundered Rc5" - Kamsky) and won a pawn. But as so often in these cases, this allowed the black pieces to become active and Kamsky soon won the pawn back. Around move 42 Shulman had lost his time advantage - both had about 1.5 minutes left (plus 5 seconds per move). When it became clear that he couldn't win anymore, Shulman offered his hand.

At the press conference GM Maurice Ashley said that, winning the U.S. title again, 19 years after his first title, Kamsky must feel content. The champ shouted "yeah!" with his hands in the air and a big smile.

Shulman's comment was: "'Alekhine said that one had to beat him three times. I could only beat Gata twice. He had nine lives today and showed brilliant defence."

Besides the $35,000 first place, Kamsky also got an automatic spot on the 2010 Olympiad Team.

The Challenger’s Swiss was won by Alex Shabalov, who beat Alex Stripunsky in only 25 moves. Shabalov takes home the top prize of the Swiss, which is actually fifth-place money - $10,000.


Shabalov vs Krush, who missed a GM norm by half a point

Report borrowed heavily from FM Mike Klein's excellent round-by-round coverage.

Photos © Betsy Dynako, more here.

Games for replay

Game viewer by ChessTempo


The organizers allowed us to embed their video show player, which is licensed under the Creative Commons license (”BY-NC-ND“).


More from PeterDoggers
Honorary Grandmaster Title Posthumously Awarded To Sultan Khan

Honorary Grandmaster Title Posthumously Awarded To Sultan Khan

Wei Yi Wins 2024 Tata Steel Chess Masters In Thrilling Tiebreak

Wei Yi Wins 2024 Tata Steel Chess Masters In Thrilling Tiebreak